Leave a comment

Kill the “ums”! Those pesty “verbal fillers”

KILL THE UMS – TOP 10 STRATEGIES http://issuu.com/gillantini/docs/web-vol2issue3/3

Have you ever heard someone say something like this?  “So, um, well, I guess you know that, um, we should, like, you know, be doing something about that, um, you know, problem that you, um, have?”  Just typing that was painful.  Listening to it is maddening.   Yet, lots of us talk like that to some extend.  These words are called “verbal fillers”. 

Why do we use “verbal fillers”?  One of the biggest reasons is we hate silence.  If someone isn’t talking (like us), we need to fill the void.  Silence makes us uncomfortable.  Martin Tupper, a 19th century English writer and poet put it well when he said  “Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech”.  Or in other words, silence makes you more eloquent by allowing your listener to reflect on, or interpret what you just said.  If you continue speaking just to fill the silence, those wonderful, inspirational and well-intended words you just spoke can easily be muddled or missed completely as you babble on. 

Another reason why we may use fillers is that we are talking too quickly to allow our thoughts to keep up.  We hesitate, and, to fill the silence that follows, begin to “fill in” the empty space with noise.  Nervousness can also force us to flounder as we cast about in our now blank minds for the thoughts we wanted to express next.  Finally, fillers can be “extra words” that we don’t really need.  If you tell someone, “honestly, this is what we do”, might they think, “so wait, now you’re being honest?  What about before?”  Likewise, you may say, “Basically, this is what do.”  Someone may be inclined to ask, “what are the non-basic things you do?”  Added fillers words simply serve to dilute your message.

Why are fillers so difficult to overcome?  For once, I have an easy answer.  Habit.  You know what a habit is right?  Something that you have done over and over again until it is ingrained in you and seems to be a part of you. 

Some habits are good.  That sweet golf swing or the way you say “thank you” to everybody.  Other habits, not so much.  I would list some here, but the RISBJ only has so much space. 

Back to verbal fillers.  How can you get rid of them?  I have listed here my


  1. Identify your own verbal fillers
  2. Pause
    1. Embrace the silence
    2. Look more thoughtful and confident
  3. Breathe
    1. Reduces stress and relaxes
    2. Build breathing into your normal speech patterns
    3. Fillers sometimes replace proper breathing
    4. Avoid losing track by reducing nervousness
  4. Listen to your own speech
  5. Listen to others
  6. Preparation/practice
    1. Predict and prepare for questions
  7. Body language, presence
  8. Slow down
  9. Monitory your progress.
  10. Improve your vocabulary
    1. Helps to avoid searching for the “right” word


If you would like some help identifying and eliminating your own verbal fillers give me a call.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: